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review 2020-05-23 20:39
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
The Only Good Indians - Stephen Graham Jones

Ten years ago, four young Native American men poach elk on tribal lands set aside for elders. They are caught. There is more to the story.


'The Only Good Indians' is a brilliant, slow build, of a novel. Once events start really going wrong in the first section it just keeps coming. A reset for the second and third part of the novel build even faster. Very unnerving, and not for anyone still traumatized by 'Where the Red Fern Grows' or 'Bambi'.


Unfortunately for my husband, I am often a movie talker. At least when viewing at home, don't get me started on those youths talking to each other through a movie up front. Just exit and smoke behind the building like decent folk. Your parents will never know. ANYWAY, at home, I ask questions no one could possibly answer for me, I gesticulate, I shout. I stand up and leave the room only to turn around, stand on the threshold, and ask more questions. Books don't often do that to me, but this was one of them.


These characters were amazing. i should say more about the book, but read the other reviews! This book nails it. I am going to check out more from Jones and, with encouragement from the excellent 'Empire of Wild', I'm going to need to read more horror from First Nations authors, too.

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review 2020-05-19 17:21
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Hunger Games Prequel by Suzanne Collins
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins returns to the world of 'The Hunger Games' to tell the story of young Coriolanus Snow. For those who don't remember, that's Donald Sutherland. The original trilogy captivated me when I first read it, but I had my doubts about a prequel after all these years. This is partly because these books don't continue to resonate with me the way some other YA powerhouses have. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, however, so expect this one to be on the bestseller list for some time.


This was a fast read, even at 500+ pages, and there was some pleasure in seeing the world that had only been viewed through Katniss' limited gaze with greater clarity. The problem I ultimately had with this is the problem that hits a lot of prequels: this story had a foregone conclusion. The story has to have an interesting journey on top of the plot. Was the goal to humanize Snow? To reinforce the message of the original trilogy? To provide an alternative to the increasingly lampooned Katniss model of YA heroine in Lucy Gray? Having finished this...I still can't give you those answers.


I'm rating this as only OK because we didn't see any transformation of Snow. Cunning sociopathic person wins the day may be realistic, but it wasn't riveting as presented here. Lucy Gray is only a cypher because we never hear her perspective, and what we do see is from Snow's eyes, so.... Most importantly, I didn't buy the moral complications presented to the reader. Right and wrong were pretty clear and there was little or no real internal struggle on the part of the characters. That was a defining highlight of the original books. 'Ballad' succeeds only in being a return to a familiar world and by filling in gaps in the timeline of the series. If you liked the original trilogy, you'll find something in this book. Just don't expect the moon.


On the plus side, many bookstores got Mockingjay/Snake iron-on patches so if you pre-ordered a copy with them you get one for free. Check with your local - they may have extra patches that are first come/first served if you didn't preorder!


The Hunger Games


Previous: 'Mockingjay'

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review 2020-05-16 20:22
The Deck of Omens, Four Paths #2 by Christine Lynn Herman
The Deck of Omens - Christine Lynn Herman

'Deck of Omens' picks up right where 'Devouring Gray' left off, with the Hawthornes and all of Four Paths aghast at Harper's vengeance.


Even in the peculiar world of this town the law doesn't touch magical actions, but there is a definite shift in power even as a new threat rises up from the Gray. Corruption is taking the trees of the forest from the inside out and, after Violet and Isaac try to strike at the Beast, the infection crosses over to people.


Further complications occur when other members of the Founders families begin to return to town. There is more family drama, surprise identity reveals, and so many feelings. Parents and kids just don't understand each other or their feelings.


This book gets to the heart of every mystery raised, but left me still wanting more. This series could easily have been expanded beyond two books, but its nice to see the series wrapped up.

Four Paths


Previous: 'The Devouring Gray'

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review 2020-05-09 20:01
Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang
Superman Smashes the Klan - Gene Luen Yang,Gurihiru

Adapted from the 1946 'Superman' radio serial on 'The Clan of the Fiery Cross', 'Superman Smashes the Klan' is great fun and offers a message of hope for those confronting intolerance.


Author Gene Luen Yang, most famous for the middle grade graphic novel 'American Born Chinese', offers a detailed essay in this edition on the origins of the famous serial and its direct influence in defeating a revival of the Ku Klux Klan in postwar America.


The Lees are moving from Chinatown into the heart of Metropolis' residential area. Dr. Lee has been hired by the Health Department (a private company) on a top secret project and looks forward to integrating his family into modern American life. He encourages his wife to speak only in English and they have had their children take on "American" names.


The night after the Lees move in, the Klan burns a cross in their front yard, attracting sympathetic and negative responses. The Daily Planet's most valued reporters are on the story, of course. 


Roberta Lee is a great character, shy and prone to motion-sickness, she is nonetheless brave and stands up for what's right for herself and her family. She doesn't like the idea of leaving their old lives behind, but a piece of advice from her mother about how to make new places home ends up helping Superman as well. During this conflict Superman is increasingly dealing with challenging visions and memories of his childhood. How different is Superman willing to be in order to be his best self?


A timely and important story, appropriate for all ages.


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review 2020-05-08 20:35
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Catherine House - Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House is an experimental college that requires its students to make a commitment. If accepted, tuition is free, but students must bring nothing with them of their former lives and agree to stay on the premises of Catherine House for three years with little or no contact with your family and friends, or even news.


It is a heavy cost, but Catherine House offers results. Alumni include award-winning scientists, famous artists, and no less than two Presidents of the United States. There is a heavy blanket of secrecy over the House and its buildings. The biggest secret surrounds the mysterious New Materials concentration. Some years before a scientist published fantastic results of pins rebuilding a broken porcelain vase as if it had never shattered, but these results were discredited. Yet, the concentration continues.


These mysteries mean little to Ines as she enters the gates. Her life circled down the drain shortly after completing the rigorous interview process and was surprised to learn she'd been accepted. She is running away from something and three years away from the world seem exactly what she needs.


Thomas builds a strange world with 'Catherine House', it has all of the hallmarks of collegiate fiction: young people finding themselves, etc., but overlaid with claustrophobia. There's something stifling about the faded grandeur of the college-that-is-not-a-college. There are many characters, but there were a few fuzzy spots that didn't make sense in the tight world of the novel. There are many nameless and faceless people wandering around when in that small of a community, everyone is going to know everyone. Also, it was never made clear why Ines was so special.


The writing was compelling, but ultimately the book didn't lead anywhere. There is a plot and dark revelations, but readers will guess them long before the reveal. The book is about atmosphere and that is what you will get.


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